“The so-called sensitivity of neurotics develops along with their egotism; they cannot bear for other people to flaunt the sufferings with which they are increasingly preoccupied themselves.” ― Marcel Proust, The Guermantes Way
“The Library of Babel” is a terrifying and beautiful story by prophetic Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, written when he was employed shelving books in the city library.
First published in a shorter version as “The Total Library,” this dense, nine-page story concerns a library that houses all of the books ever written and yet to be written. The Library is arranged non-hierarchically; all of the volumes — from the most rudimentary to the most inscrutable — are equally important in this infinite space. Its rooms are hexagons. Its staircases are broken.
The Library’s many visitors — elated, dogmatic and anguished types are all represented — strangle one another in the corridors. They fall down air shafts and perish. They weep, or go mad. Desperate characters hide in the bathrooms, “rattling metal disks inside dice cups,” hoping to mind-read the call number for a missing canonical text. Others, overcome with “hygienic, ascetic rage,” stand before entire walls of books, denouncing the volumes, raising their fists.